The effects of Lyme Disease can be debilitating; you’ve either had it or know someone that has. Early signs of Lyme Disease include rash (Erythema Migraines), fever, chills, fatigue and muscle and joint pain. Prolonged signs include severe headaches, severe joint pain, facial palsy, irregular heart beat (Lyme Carditis), inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain and short term memory loss. Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth counties have some of the highest rates of Lyme Disease in Massachusetts, the CDC estimates that only 10 percent of cases of Lyme Disease are actually reported.
In addition to Lyme, the CDC confirmed cases of Powassan in Massachusetts, a potentially deadly virus that can infect the nervous system causing encephalitis and meningitis. In 2016, Massachusetts had the fourth highest rate of Powassan in the country. Approximately half of survivors experience permanent neurological symptoms. Other tick borne diseases on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts include Babesiosis, Tulameria, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The culprit behind most tick borne illness on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts including Lyme Disease, Powassan, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis is the blacklegged tick, commonly known as the deer tick.
In January 2015, The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services confirmed cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially deadly disease, and Tularemia; both spread by the bite of an infected dog tick. While incidents are rare, the highest rates of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were reported from Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
As recently reported in the Cape Cod Times, the Lone Star Tick has made its way north establishing a foothold at Sandy Neck Beach Park in Barnstable and Cuttyhunk Island. The Lone Star Tick is extremely aggressive, moves much faster than Deer and Dog Ticks, will swarm and bite any animal and has longer mouthparts than Deer or Dog Tick. While the Lone Star Tick is less likely to carry pathogens than Deer Tick, the Lone Star Tick is known to carry many diseases including STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness), Tulameria and Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis can include rash, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, diarrhea and vomiting. Ehrlichiosis can be fatal if severe symptoms go untreated.